Deal with Ablynx relates to antibody fragments

Merck & Co has struck a $460 million (£285 million) deal for rights to certain drug candidates developed by Belgian pharma company Ablynx. Merck will get rights to the monoclonal antibodies found to target a voltage gated ion channel. Ion channels play an important role in a wide range of conditions, but so far no antibody based drug designed to target them has been approved by regulators.

Under the terms of the deal, Merck will pay Ablynx €8.5 million up front, including €2 million for research funding, and agree to pay up to €448 million if and when certain milestones are passed.

Ablynx works with a class of small therapeutic proteins derived from antibodies, which it calls ‘nanobodies’. Each nanobody is the smallest functional fragment of a naturally occurring single chain antibody. The company says these fragments combine the advantages of conventional antibodies with important features of small molecule drugs.